January Rhythm & Blues: A Preview Of Celtic Connections 2017…

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“January…let us endure this evil month”, to paraphrase the French writer Colette. You may think this overly dramatic, but you know what she’s getting at. For me, a year doesn’t get going properly til Celtic Connections begins. A festival which never fails to deliver, and which continues to grow in terms of number of gigs, breadth of music, and international stature – deep, and wide and tall.

As always, we’d like to point you in the direction of lesser known gems which can be found at the festival alongside the headliners and more well-kent attendees, which this year include Laura Marling, Billy Bragg & Joe Henry, Fairport Convention, Mary Chapin Carpenter with Altan & Julie Fowlis, and Eliza Carthy. Some of the names below you may recognise from our regular music reviews, and they all are deserving of your attention. Each one promises an unforgettable night, and what more can you ask for in these early days of 2017?

You can peruse the full programme at your leisure at Celtic Connections, and receive all the up-to-date news by following on Twitter, and Facebook.  But before you rush away, here is the Scots Whay Hae! guide, (complete with links to further details), to what we’re calling ‘the best of the rest of the fest’.

Mark W. Georgsson – 19th Jan, Hug & Pint

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Scots Whay Hae!’s Alternative Hogmanay Night In, 2016…

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Once again Montgomery Scott raises a glass to see out the old year and ring in the new and that means it’s time for Scots Whay Hae!’s annual selection of New Year’s Eve treats. It’s an alternative to the Hogmanay telly, so if there’s little you fancy on the box this might be more to your liking.

There’s audio, video, music, comedy, documentary, drama, and more involving some of our favourite folk, including The Blue Nile, Robbie Coltrane, John Byrne, David Hayman, Ette, Peter Ross, The Primevals, and Lomond Campbell. That’s quite a lot to get through, so without further ado….

Perhaps the least surprising recommendation to regular readers will be journalist Ken Sweeney’s documentary on The Blue Nile (which he talked about in detail to the Glasgowist). He starts at the band’s very beginning, and tries to understand why, with a mere four albums to their name in 20 years, they are so beloved by some, yet unheard of or ignored by others. If you are in the latter camp and would like to know more about them then I can recommend Allan Brown’s Nileism: The Strange Course Of The Blue Nilebut not before you listen to the following – and, more importantly, their music. It just may change your life:

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That Was The Year That Was: It’s The Best Of 2016 Podcast – Part Two (Music)…

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Merry Christmas & Happy New Year From Scots Whay Hae!

In this, Part II of our end of year podcast Ali, Chris and Wesley concentrate on the best music of 2016, both recorded and live. Even our sound-guru, Ian, chips in. It’s been a cracking year for new music. As you may suspect, we start with the best from Scotland before beginning a wide-ranging discussion as to what has been on offer from elsewhere.

As well as our personal choices we talk about the rise of rise of indie record labels and how important they have become. Names such as Olive Grove Records, Song, by Toad, Errant Media and Last Night From Glasgow are home to a lot of the music and musicians under discussion, which sort of makes our point for us. There is some annual Kanye chat, a tribute to Bowie, and we name Teen Canteen and Ette singer/songwriter Carla J. Easton as our Woman Of The Year for being involved in not one, but two of the best records of 2016. If you want to hear a lot of the music that we talk about, there is a Scots Whay Hay Best of 2016 Spotify Playlist.

In case you missed it, Part I looked back at film and books from the last 12 months, and you can still hear that now, as well as indulge yourself in our extensive back catalogue of over 70 podcasts.

If you aren’t yet a subscriber to the SWH! podcast you can do so, (or simply listen) at iTunes or by RSS. You can also download it by clicking on the relevant link to the right of this post, or, if you want it right here, right now, you can listen on SoundCloud

..or on YouTube:

And that’s all from us in terms of podcasts for the year, although we are crossing the ‘t’s and dotting the ‘i’s on a few exciting ones for the new year. Before then there will be our alternative Hogmanay Hootenanny which will offer something different from the usual TV fare. All the best from Ian, Ali, Chris & Wesley. God bless us, everyone…

The Tracks Of My Year: SWH!’s 10 Best Songs Of 2016…

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Looking back, as is everyone’s wont at this time of year, two things in particular are striking about 2016 in music. There was the continued rise and success of the independent record label, especially Last Night From Glasgow, Song, by Toad, Olive Grove Records and Errant Media, and it was a year of classic albums, from the triumphant return of Teenage FanclubMogwai, King Creosote and Kid Canaveral, through the mostly excellent SAY Award nominees, to those released by the artists below.

These are our choices for the 10 best songs reviewed on these pages this year. As ever, it’s a list which focuses on individual tracks, but if you like what you hear you should investigate further as most of them are to be found on equally awesome albums.

If you aren’t sated by what follows you can discover more of the new music we covered on Scots Whay Hae! by listening to our Best of 2016 Spotify list.

But enough preamble, here’s the countdown listed in chronological order and what we thought about them at the time, with a few relevant updates…

Errant Boy – Black Dress, Black Cab

Errant Boy are another who have recently featured on those pages. That’s because we like to be surprised and delighted, and it appears that the ability to do both is in Errants Boy’s DNA. This is their latest single, ‘Black Dress, Black Cab’, and it demands repeated listenings as it takes you to different places every time. The song moves from menace to magic and back again in a single line, with layered acoustics and vocals which seem to pull you in opposite directions. It reminds me of The Woodentops in the sense that what you are listening to is way more complex than you initially believe, and that’s a great thing. I feel I could write a short essay on this song. I’ve been listening to it a lot. Can you tell?

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New Musical Success: The Best New Music From Autumn…

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As the nights draw in and the heating comes on, it’s a good time to begin to take stock of the year and how it is shaping up for music. Looking back over SWH!’s musical roundups of 2016 to date there is little doubt that it has been one of the most interesting and varied of recent times, and it  has no intention of stopping now.

So far the most notable rends have been left-field and/or ambient electronica, the reappearance of the singer/songwriter, the more traditional end of the folk spectrum, (great band name, ahoy!), and lashings of wonderful classic and classy pop music. The following roundup suggests that admittedly simplistic breakdown is not too far from the mark. It is also looking like the year the Scottish independent record label roared, (more of which at a later date), and there is further evidence of this in the music that follows.

First up we have the new album from The Furrow Collective, who set the bar high for contemporary trad/folk music, presenting their often dark material with wonderful understated playing and pin-sharp harmonies. The Collective are Rachel Newton, Emily Portman, Lucy Farell, and Alasdair Roberts (a previous podcast guest), and if you have felt in the past that folk music isn’t for you, and I know there are a few of you out there, then this is the record to change that. You want proof? Of course you do, so here they are with ‘Wild Hog In The Woods’ which also has perhaps the best video of the year:

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New Musical Success: The Best New Music From The Last Month…

a3715261681_10To say we live in strange times is understatement veering towards sarcasm. I don’t wish to appear trite, but in the worst of times, for whatever reasons they may be, music in particular brings me comfort like nothing else can.

Feeling down? Listen to Smokey sing, Johnny play guitar, or Dylan do anything. It never fails me, and it hasn’t this time round. With that in mind, putting together this roundup of the best in new music from the last month has not simply been a pleasure but seriously uplifting. In short – I needed that.

First off, we have what I consider the pop song of the summer. Ette’s album Homemade Lemonade is out on the 22 July – and you really should get your order in now. But you don’t need to take my word for it as listening to ‘The Attack of the Glam Soul Cheerleaders (Parts 1 & 2)‘ will persuade you within the first 10 seconds. This is pop music at its very best, from the opening handclaps and keys, through the guitar riff which drives things alongside Carla J. Easton’s perfect bubblegum vocals, to the false ending and joyous wig-out which follows. It’s a reminder that the best pop music does not need a big production – it can spring from anyone and anywhere when the inspiration strikes. If Phil Spector had lived round our way, this is the sort of wall of sound he’d be making:

https://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/album=3452021734/size=large/bgcol=ffffff/linkcol=0687f5/tracklist=false/track=2148438149/transparent=true/

Ette headlined the Olive Grove Records Review at Oran Mor last month, which is one of the gigs of the year so far. No real surprise as it also featured Call To Mind, The Moth and The Mirror (and what a set that was) and the debut of The Royal Male, the solo venture from Woodenbox’s Ali Downer. The Royal Male’s album is Plastic Throne and the single is ‘Start When It’s Over’. Both have a wonderful mix of eclectic piano, understated horns, and a liberal sprinkling of whip-smart melodies reminiscent of Neil Hannon and Ben Folds. Having heard the whole album I can confirm it’s an absolute joy. The single alone brings a smile to my face every time I play it, which has been a lot. What say you?:

https://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/album=2539166407/size=large/bgcol=ffffff/linkcol=0687f5/tracklist=false/transparent=true/

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New Musical Success: A Record Store Day 2016 Special…

Randolphs-Leap_Cowardly-Deeds_cover_pinemartin3Tomorrow (Sat 16/4/16) is Record Store Day 2016, and all across the land this evening chairs are being unfolded, sleeping bags zipped and cheap alcohol consumed in a bid to get those through the night who are willing to stand in line for new releases and rarities which the day always brings.

A lot of people have mixed feelings about the now annual event, with many suggesting that it has moved away from its distinctly admirable indie beginnings to become just another way to make music lovers pay through the nose for music they often own already in another form.

However, many independent record stores claim that the day can guarantee their survival for another year, and that can’t be a bad thing, can it? It has also been in no small part responsible for the resurrection of vinyl as a format due to the collect ability of the exclusive releases, as well as being a great day for live music, and you can click here for just a few suggestions as to who to see around Scotland. Continue reading